If you are new to planning and creating retreats, the following five steps should help you. These steps will move you through a deliberate process, and they can prevent you from making short-sighted decisions and help you to get out of the box and think creatively.
Sometimes traditions are helpful for the right reasons. Other times, they are not. Many churches and other community organizations have been known to go to the same camp center year after year after year simply because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Again, sometimes this is a good decision if the camp center serves you in unique ways or offers scheduling preference or discounts because of your loyal patronage. Other times, going to the same place again and again is the choice simply because it is easy and doesn’t require much effort. This is when tradition can get in the way of providing the most enriching and memorable experience possible.
1. Be creative, involve others, and develop a fresh experience.
Before you make any contact with possible camp centers, do a little more work up front that will save you a lot of effort later and make your retreat unique.
Find out what needs, interests, or challenges your group members are facing right now. Do your planning with a creative team, and not alone. Bring in new members to your retreat planning team every year, and then have a live, in person, brainstorming session where every idea is allowed and considered and you benefit from the excitement and synergy that only team work can bring.
This is far better than trying to resurrect an old theme from years ago just because you have pre-made notes or ideas, or picking a currently popular book and arbitrarily assigning a few people to speak from a chapter. Your participants always pick up on the genuine enthusiasm and involvement of leaders. What has been impactful or has spoken to the lives of your team members? What gets you excited or has you passionately interested lately? Usually what has been speaking to the lives of your own team members will also speak to others.
2. Be very clear on your time requirements, your schedule, your accommodation and equipment needs, and your budget.
Knowing exactly what you want to occur, and when, during your retreat really helps you select the best camp center for you, and it also helps the staff of the camp center get ready to serve you. Being clear on how many will attend, special dietary or sleeping arrangements, the specific types of media equipment you will need, and when your presentation sessions will take place are very important. There’s a good chance the camp center will be hosting more than one group, so knowing exactly when you will need meeting rooms, recreation facilities, times of quiet and meals makes everything flow nicely.
If you are clear with your needs, the camp center staff can also be clear on total costs, which will help you set your budget. Make sure you have final arrangements communicated in writing, and try to negotiate and plan with the same camp center staff member. This minimizes the chances of miscommunication or last minute changes.
3. Having prepared well allows you to now select the best camp center.
Now that you have put good effort into creating your event, and you are very clear on all that you require, looking at various camp center options will be easier and more effective. Camps will now be able to let you know when and how they can accommodate you, and before you even contact a camp center, you can now narrow your options by first visiting camp center websites. Since you know what you need and when you need it, making your selection should go much more smoothly.